The PKK’s recruitment of new members from Europe is under the spotlight again as a man who surrendered reveals that he joined the terrorist group in France and stayed in a Greek camp before being enrolled in their bloody campaign in northern Iraq
Confessions of a PKK terrorist who chose to surrender disclosed the terrorist group’s free rein in Europe and how it recruits members thousands of kilometers away from its strongholds in Iraq’s north.
The terrorist was among four who decided to quit the group and fled its hideouts in northern Iraq. They surrendered to Turkish security forces on the Turkish-Iraqi border last week. The Ministry of National Defense on Sunday announced that the man, code-named “Munzur B,” has admitted that he joined the group last year while residing in France and was sent to terrorist camps in northern Iraq. He also stayed in a camp in Greece for a while before going to Iraq, the ministry said.
On June 22, four members of the PKK laid down their arms at the Turkish border posts in Habur and Silopi. PKK terrorists have hideouts in northern Iraq, across the Turkish border, which they use to plot attacks against Türkiye.
Ankara has launched a series of operations to root out terrorists hiding out in northern Iraq and plotting cross-border attacks in Türkiye. In its over 35-year terror campaign against Türkiye, the PKK, listed as a terrorist organization by Türkiye, the U.S., and the EU, has been responsible for the deaths of over 40,000 people, including women, children and infants.
Munzur B. is the second terrorist discovered to have joined PKK from France in two weeks. Turkish authorities have announced that one of two terrorists eliminated last week in counterterrorism operations in Iraq’s north was a recruit from France, while the other was a German citizen.
The terrorist group has seen a decline in new recruits from Türkiye where it exploited disillusioned youth, particularly in southeastern provinces. Authorities say the number of PKK recruits within Turkish borders dropped by around “hundreds” in recent years, unlike the past decades when it substantially grew and terrorized the country, particularly the southeastern and eastern regions. Yet, so-called “foreign fighters” apparently find their way to the terrorist group, especially from European countries. As a matter of fact, the PKK enjoys widespread support in European countries from Sweden to Germany and France where its supporters run so-called “Kurdish associations” to find legitimacy for their activities.
France is among the countries where PKK draws support. Last year, an attack on a Kurdish cultural center in the country paved the way for riots by pro-PKK supporters.
It is not clear whether the “camp” in Greece, where Munzur B. stayed and “learnt details (about the PKK)” as per his statement, is the notorious Lavrion, but Greece has had its share of criticism from Türkiye for its tolerance of the terrorist group. The Lavrion camp has been a point of dispute in relations between Türkiye and Greece for a long time. Footage from the camp shows that it has turned into a base for PKK terrorists.
The camp scene resembles a terrorist base, with terrorist symbols and pictures of its imprisoned ringleader Abdullah Öcalan adorning its walls. Turkish officials frequently said the camp harbors “everything ranging from the DHKP-C (Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party/Front), the PKK and FETÖ (Gülenist Terror Group).”
Greece has long been accused of being a favorite hideout for terrorists from the DHKP-C and PKK. Those fleeing Türkiye sought shelter in refugee camps in Lavrion near Athens under the guise of being asylum-seekers, especially in the 1980s.
PKK clout in Europe
The threat posed by the terrorist group to Europe was among those covered in the annual report of Europol, the EU’s law enforcement agency. The “European Union Terrorism Situation and Trend Report” released earlier this month revealed that members of some European far-left groups and anarchists have been training and fighting alongside PKK terrorists in northern Iraq, southeastern Türkiye and more recently in northeastern Syria, where most of the terrorist group’s attacks have taken place.
“The PKK is very active in the EU, mostly using member states as bases for administrative, recruitment and financing purposes,” it said, adding that drug trafficking and fraud are among its main income sources in the EU to finance its terrorist campaigns. It said the PKK also operates an extensive propaganda apparatus across Europe. According to the agency, in 2022, Germany arrested four people, and one person in Italy for their connections to the PKK.
The report says the PKK collects large amounts of money within the EU through their annual international fundraising campaign “kampanya.” It says the support for the PKK has been “a long-standing issue for the left-wing extremist scene” and noted that some left-wing extremists have also been “training and fighting” with forces linked to the terrorist group in conflict zones for years.
“Some member states reported the return of (foreign terrorist fighters) from northeastern Syria in 2022. These returnees are combat-trained and may, therefore, pose a threat to the member states,” the report said, referring to a part of Syria occupied by the PKK’s Syrian wing, the YPG.
It pointed out that the terrorist group continued to focus on its propaganda, recruitment and financing activities to support its activities in Iraq, Syria and Türkiye. “One arrest in Italy was carried out in connection with the PKK. Four arrests in Germany (Bremen, Kassel, Leverkusen and Nuremberg) for ethno-nationalist offenses were connected to the PKK,” it said.
The report highlighted that the ongoing operations by Türkiye against the terrorist group and the continued imprisonment of its leader Abdullah Öcalan motivated supporters to continue contributions and donations to the group. “The proceeds raised through various activities are intended to support the extensive propaganda apparatus of the PKK in the EU, provide humanitarian aid to (areas controlled by the PKK) and finance the YPG,” the report stated.
“Illegal sources for the PKK’s funding include drug trafficking and fraud carried out in the EU. PKK members with EU citizenship or permanent residency in member states have traveled to the conflict zones in Syria and Iraq to take part in the armed conflicts. Their travels are often facilitated by the main organization, which also enables PKK members to return to the EU. PKK propaganda is concentrated on lobbying for the release of the PKK leader, Abdullah Öcalan, removing the PKK from the list of terrorist organizations in the EU, and establishing a permanent and sovereign Kurdish state under PKK leadership. Several calls were made online to stop money flows to Türkiye and to boycott Turkish products and services,” it said.
The PKK presence in Europe is on the agenda of Türkiye’s ties with Sweden, amid the Nordic country’s bid for NATO membership. Türkiye rejected approving Sweden’s inclusion in the military alliance as long as it tolerated activities of the terrorist groups, namely the PKK, and harbors its members. Sweden has been the scene of several rallies by supporters of terrorist groups.
Source : Dailysabah